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Universities seek armchair astronomers

Nonscientists and researchers alike have a chance to see something no one else ever has—a few of the million far-off galaxies that the Sloan Digital Sky Survey has recently photographed. The price of admission: People viewing the new images online must do a little work for the astronomers in charge, classifying individual galaxies as either spiral armed or elliptical collections of stars.

On July 11, the University of Oxford in England, the University of Portsmouth in England, and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore jointly launched Galaxy Zoo. This Web site ( describes how to differentiate between the two galaxy shapes, then lets visitors view previously unstudied images from the Sloan survey.

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